In a recent article in the East Oregonian titled “Buildable land needed for new housing,” it was stated that the city of Pendleton’s No. 1 priority is housing. If you check the section on the city’s website under "Mayor and City Council," it lists four goals: (1) Sustainable Infrastructure Funding for Buildings, Roads, and Utilities, (2) Increase Economic Development Activities and Blight Reduction, (3) Development of Quality Commercial, Industrial, and Residential Properties, (4) Increase Available Housing.

After hearing for months that rebuilding our streets was the top priority, has City Hall changed course?

At the last city council meeting on Dec. 15, a booster pump project that would open up residential development in the Goad Road area was purposed. The city would cover all the engineering costs at roughly $350,000, but no actual construction. This sounds suspiciously similar to the city’s approach taken with the Barnhart Road extension, affectionally known as the "road to nowhere."

City officials assumed businesses would jump at the chance of development. Once it became apparent that utilities were not available, interest evaporated. The success of the city’s drone program at the airport spawned the idea of a new dedicated industrial park. The city picked up the tab for new infrastructure and construction has flourished. For the first time in years, the airport has not been a drain on city resources.

When it comes to sponsoring new major housing development projects, the city has had a pretty dismal record that in the end has cost taxpayers a bundle. Chasing developers and offering free property as an incentive for rapid development set a bad precedent. City negotiators, desperate and lacking any practical business experience, allowed contractors to demand even better terms. The results? Inaction by the city manager and council on the Pendleton Heights and other projects brought development to a standstill, costing the city lost property tax revenue.

If it is in fact true that housing has supplanted infrastructure as the city's No. 1 priority, perhaps it’s time to get a management team in place that’s the same caliber as the airport “Chrisman Team,” the team that’s done such a remarkable job reversing the fortunes at the airport.

Rick Rohde


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